Raising Media's Creative Generation

"Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity."

We can thank Edwin Land, a 20th-century American scientist and inventor, for these words. While you likely don't recognize the name, perhaps you can relate to this sentiment as it applies to the current industry debate of who owns creativity.

This argument is obsolete because creativity is not something that should be owned. We refer to "creativity" as a thing that is passed back and forth like an idea attached to a string. But the reality is, creativity is everyone's domain, if only we see it as a tool for expression that should be nurtured and encouraged by every professional who touches the advertising and marketing industry.

Let's suspend for a minute our hierarchies, roles and titles. And think about what tomorrow looks like, specifically the role of creativity, the sources that inspire it and people who champion and deliver it.

See the Story in the Data
I've believed from the inception of Amazon.com, that data will unleash the next generation of creativity in media. Indeed, every data point tells a story, and every full-scale survey is a novel unto itself. But it takes real creativity to translate the hard data into a tangible narrative about human wants and needs. SMG's Intent Continuum exemplifies this type of creative analysis. Inspired by decades of gathering consumer intelligence, and informed by months of tracking and talking to people, the Intent Continuum plots the consumer journey from a consumer's awareness of a brand to the decision to purchase and—in a perfect world—advocate for the brand. The Intent Continuum simultaneously boasts the bricks and mortar grounding of real-world research, and the pragmatic application of intelligent interpretation. The profound consumer insights yielded by efforts like this create a springboard for marketing programs that reach consumers in arresting, creative, engaging ways. In this case, data inspired creativity.

But data alone can't do the job. Agencies and marketers need integrated structures to interpret and activate what's revealed in the numbers. Small screen, big screen, third screen, online, off-line, mobile, work, home, travel: to today's consumer, it's all the same. Suddenly, they're constantly accessible—and they want to be reached on their own terms. In order to get to them, we need to think with an Open Source mindset. That means breaking down silos so that we can follow consumers wherever they go. This is no small task, especially when revenue streams and egos are involved. But what's more important—fleeting pats on the back or long term sustainability?

The Creative Generation
Finally, no agency is stronger than its ability to foster talent and no more creative than its staff. Our young talent is the future of the industry, and our creative potential is vested in them. Let me be clear: no creative revolution will take place if we don't cultivate the new generation of media professionals. The industry has been taking steps in the right direction for a while now, but, the Cannes Young Media Lions constitutes a giant leap. This year, for the first year, the Cannes Young Lions competition, which celebrates the best up-and-coming advertising talent from all over the world, offered a separate category for media. Remember the names Alyssa Burgess and Emily Rose from OMD and Cynthia Heagstedt and Akash Bharucha from MediaVest USA. These are the first- and second-place winners, respectively, from the Young Lions USA competition. You might not recognize their names today, but my money's on them.

The smart money, to my mind, is the creative money—not necessarily in support of the traditional creative agencies, but the backing of any agency or organization putting out brave, game-changing work and committed to developing and propagating a creative generation that transcends titles and corporate website declarations. And I'd like to think that media is attracting the smart money, or at least a healthy chunk of it.

And perhaps this debate on who owns creativity, which is stunting our growth (and Edwin Land, if he were alive, might call this a source of stupidity) will cease forever and creativity can roam, meander and be inspired by the most unlikely of sources, like data, like open source structures. After all, creativity is everyone's game, and we have all have a stake in the outcome.

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